What to drink this week

New Zealand reds

Country Life Every Week - - Town & Country Notebook -

For a time, there was just New Zealand Sau­vi­gnon Blanc. With Cloudy Bay pro­vid­ing in­spi­ra­tional lead­er­ship and ex­cel­lent firms such as Babich and Villa Maria back­ing that up with quan­tity as well as qual­ity, this style be­came phe­nom­e­nally pop­u­lar. It now ac­counts for 72% of New Zealand wine pro­duc­tion and a stag­ger­ing 86% of ex­ports. Then came se­ri­ously good Chardon­nay from pro­duc­ers such as Kumeu River (espe­cially Maté’s Vine­yard). Reds lagged be­hind the whites, but in­creas­ingly fine Pinot Noirs be­gan to emerge from Mart­in­bor­ough and Cen­tral Otago. Now, it’s the turn of other red va­ri­eties —Caber­net Sau­vi­gnon, Mer­lot and even Syrah, for which New Zealand was once thought too cool.

It’s time to go be­yond Pinot Noir, urges Harry Eyres

Why you should be drink­ing them

It took me quite a while—un­til ear­lier this year, in fact—to be truly con­vinced about the po­ten­tial of NZ Caber­net Sau­vi­gnon, Mer­lot and Syrah. Now, I’m a con­vert. No longer ex­ces­sively grassy, the best of th­ese wines have ex­cep­tional fresh­ness as well as ripeness.

What to buy

Villa Maria Cel­lar Se­lec­tion Mer­lot Caber­net Sau­vi­gnon 2016 (be­low, £14.99; www.nz­house­ofwine.co.uk) is quite deep in colour, with an at­trac­tive mix of cas­sis fruit and earthy spice. Vi­dal Re­serve Syrah 2016 (£14.99; as be­fore) has a deep­pur­ple colour and at­trac­tive gar­rigue and white-pep­per aro­mas. Villa Maria Cel­lar Se­lec­tion Syrah 2016 (£14.99; as be­fore) is even bet­ter: vi­o­let-scented, with vel­vety tan­nins. Vi­dal Legacy Syrah 2014 (£34.99; as be­fore) has im­pres­sive depth of colour and flo­ral el­e­gance. Villa Maria’s top red blend (97% Caber­net Sau­vi­gnon, 3% Mer­lot), Ngakirikiri 2013 (£81.99; as be­fore), is al­most black in colour, dense, lay­ered and mouth-fill­ing on the palate, with deep soft tan­nin, yet a fresh fin­ish.

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